As a preface to this blog post, I must confess that I (tried to) read Jane Austen before, in the form of Pride and Prejudice, and made it through what I found to be 60 excruciatingly dull pages before falling asleep and giving up. I found the slow plot and the intricate details of socialite life to be exhausting. Considering that Austen, and Pride and Prejudice specifically, have long been favorites of my mother, I was excited (and wary) to give her (Austen, not my mother) a second chance.
Interestingly enough, I’ve overall enjoyed this book. My mother’s key praise of Austen’s work was her observations about human nature, and how people work. As I was reading through, I noticed a lot of this. Honestly, some of it was humorous to make me laugh out loud (for real).
The plot still wasn’t thrilling, but reminds me of a bland and mildly predictable romantic comedy – mindless and pleasant readings. The inevitable romance was obvious, but like in Gossip Girl, it was worth enduring 235 pages (or six seasons) of decent-ness to confirm what we knew all along that Charlotte and Mr. Tinley (AKA Chuck and Blair, the original OTP) would end up together.
Although I still found some of the more intricate and exact details about socialite life tiresome, I appreciated the comments made in the ‘Note On the Text’ that reminded readers that these comments would mean more to readers in Austen’s time than it does today. There were probably more nuanced examples of Austen poking fun at people or traditions of the day, but because we are removed from it, it is less easy to appreciate (she herself, in the ‘Advertisement’ just before Volume I begins, expresses concern about a 13 year discrepancy between the writing and publication of the book. If she is unsure about its relativity after such a short time frame, imagine what an extra 200 years could do to skew render irrelevant the cultural commentary at play).
I found Austen’s writing style intriguing. The fact that she often spoke by inserting her own opinions about the situation (writing in first person in these situations) made me feel as if she was gossiping about these events with me (also helped by the conversational tone). (This is a function of the ‘extreme skepticism’ but I found it quite enjoyable). It made me think that although at times her writing gets a bit tiring, Jane Austen as a person and a commentator is quite funny.